Staples "Easy Rebates" Seem Designed To Make It Easy To Screw Over The Customer
I only buy paper when it's on some sort of big promo.
For example, there was this New Year's promo at Staples, making a $49 box of paper $19.99, after rebate.
That "after rebate" bit is the key part.
I've had ridiculous problems with Staples in the recent past, but I have an account with them and "rewards" and I saw this promo and decided to give them another chance. Bad idea (although I tempered it by taking a screen shot of the promotion, just in case).
First of all, instead of sending you a check like they used to, Staples sends you a pre-paid VISA card. You end up not knowing how much is on it and letting the $2 and change or so left go to waste, like I did the last time. This pisses me off. (This does not create customer goodwill, in other words -- when I'd see that card in my wallet I'd think about being screwed over by Staples, if in a small way.)
Next, rebates seem designed to keep the customer and the promised money separated. For example, when you order something online with a rebate attached -- one called an "easy" rebate -- it isn't unreasonable to think that the rebate would go through automatically. Nopers.
I realized this morning -- almost two months later -- that I'd never gotten my rebate card. Grrr. I called Staples and it turns out that you have to read the order -- down to the bottom of the order -- where it tells you that you must submit the rebate online to get the card.
Now, I'm sure busy businesspeople other than me don't see that and don't think about the $30 card they never got. Win-win for Staples! They use this complexity to make a customer pay the full price instead of the promised promotional price, while probably getting a slew of customers to order based on the promised savings.
In my case, after waking up at 5 a.m. to work on my book (which I do daily -- only way I'll make my deadline, sigh), the bug entered my brain around 8:15 a.m. that I'd been screwed. Well, I need to have a certain mental calm to write, so there was nothing to do but to get this out of the way. So, I got online, got on the phone to the wrong department ("rewards!" instead of "easy rebates!") then got to the right department, only to have the woman's phone line go all weird. I called back again and the guy told me I had to submit a rebate even though I'd ordered online.
Again, in order to know this, you have to open the email about your order, and not only look at the charges but scroll down to a message on the bottom telling you that you have to submit a rebate request online.
Easy Rebate(s) available: Submit your rebate online at www.stapleseasyrebates.com.
I submitted mine today (they give you until March 4 -- probably in case you figure it out like I did). After I did, I was still furious at how they seem to design this system to screw people, and wrote this blog post to get it out of my system before going back to my book- and column-writing.
I'm going to look into other office supply places to order from in the future. Anybody have a preference of office supply sources with promos on paper from time to time?
Related: Meg Marco from Consumerist on rebates:
Rebates are a huge point of controversy. We tend to be against them because they are designed to screw you, the consumer, out of money.
And at Wise Bread, Andrea Karim writes:
The idea behind a rebate is that if the company can make it as hard as possible for you to claim your money back in a reasonable amount of time, eventually you will give up, and they will keep the full price that you paid for whatever it was that you bought. This works really well - rebate redemption rates are very, very low.
Nice way to keep up the customer goodwill Staples. See that fluttering? That's me waving goodbye to your company.